Today, in keeping with his push to steer India towards a digital economy, PM Modi launched a new e-wallet app, BHIM, named after founding father Dr BR Ambedkar, to make it easier to transact online. The PM also reiterated that digital transactions will be rewarded with raffle-like cash prizes from the government.
- The BHIM app is being improved upon so that in time, “only your thumb will be needed to make a payment,” said the PM, adding “you will eventually not be dependent on the internet, on smartphones, your thumb will be your bank.”
- So far, there has been no announcement of whether the cash restrictions at ATMs and withdrawals from banks that were introduced after demonetization will remain in place in the new year
- On November 8, PM Modi’s shock announcement rendered 86 per cent of India’s currency void, giving people until today to swap their old 500 rupee and 1,000-rupee bills for new ones.
- The PM has been widely hailed for his assault on tax evasion but long queues outside banks, a cash crunch and policy flip-flops have led to a concerted attack from the opposition.
- The risky gamble is expected to impact the election in Uttar Pradesh, which is expected to be held in February. Many top industrialists and financial experts have praised the PM’s call to move towards a digital economy, but some industries have ground to a halt and laid off staff, highlighting India’s huge dependence on cash.
- As the almost two-month window draws to a close, serpentine queues outside banks have thinned down but a single 2,000 rupee note is still all that most ATMs dispense to customers.
- Until March 31, old notes can be deposited with the Reserve Bank of India but today is the last opportunity to do so at other banks. After the March deadline there will be a minimum 10,000 rupees penalty for holding old notes.
- Analysts say the cash squeeze will seriously dent India’s economic growth in the short term, a prediction challenged by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Ratings agency Fitch revised down its GDP forecast for the fourth quarter of 2016 to 6.9 per cent from 7.4 per cent.
Economists expect the economy to benefit in the long term due to an increase in tax revenues but only once there is a plentiful supply of those elusive new notes in circulation. Many Indians have said they didn’t mind the hours of queuing if it forced the rich to pay taxes.